Date of Award

Spring 2020


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Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS) in Dental Hygiene


Dental Hygiene


Purpose: Research shows definite connections between food choices and caries, periodontal disease, and oral cancer. Dental hygienists have the unique opportunity to educate patients on how nutrition can improve oral health. Dental hygiene students are introduced to these concepts but struggle to gain confidence to share this knowledge with patients. This study looked at an educational module on motivational interviewing (MI) and an electronic assessment tool to build student confidence with nutritional counseling.

Methods: Students participated in an educational module to review MI and introduce the electronic nutritional risk assessment and counseling tool. Prior to the module, participants completed a pretest about attitudes and confidence levels regarding MI and nutritional counseling. After three weeks of clinical practice, participants completed a posttest including the same questions, a report on the frequency of nutritional counseling sessions, and open-ended questions. Data was compared for quantitative changes and qualitative themes from participant responses.

Results: Twenty-two students (n = 22) participated in both pretest and posttest. There were statistically significant changes in participants’ frequency of nutritional counseling sessions (p = 0.049) as well as in their confidence (p = 0.007) and comfort (p = 0.020) discussing nutrition with patients. Participants struggled to become more confident in MI as demonstrated with no significant change in their feelings surrounding MI (p = 0.150). Students reporting increased nutritional counseling sessions showed improvement in their confidence with nutritional counseling.

Conclusion: Introducing MI with an electronic assessment tool to aid dental hygiene students can improve confidence with nutritional counseling.